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Archetypal Approach to Color
Transcending Newton's Errors
“An error in thinking will lead centuries astray.” —Goethe
Everyone knows that white light has seven colors.
They teach it in school!
Here's what people like to believe, some mysterious goings on :
It's in the Encyclopedia Britannica, university textbooks, everywhere!
Even Pink Floyd has it on the Dark Side of the Moon classic album cover.
Must be true… but perhaps not???
We can't blame musicians for errors in color formation theory, but Encyclopedia Britannica?
Friends, avoid the darkened chamber,
Where one pinches off the light,
Which must bow in lamentation
While distortions mock our sight.
Through the years there’ve been enough;
In the noggins of your teachers
Reign illusions, specter-stuff.
Modern science claims that colors are merely rates of vibration — in nothing, apparently — impinging upon our eye, that it is all but an illusion, interpreted as color via electro-chemical signals traveling up our optic nerves to our brains… But there are flaws in this view, which anyone of average intelligence can see for themselves if they but look.
Modern conceptions of color formation generally originate from the basic experiment of Sir Isaac Newton where he closed himself into a dark room and allowed in only the tiniest beam of light. This beam was directed to pass through a prism and onto a white surface. The result, as reported, was the well-known spectrum of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Newton concluded from his experiments that all the colors of this spectrum are hidden or contained, as components, in light and can be extracted with the prism. It is gospel that Newton discovered that “white” light contains all colors, and black is the absence of all colors.
Certain selective color and pigment mixing experiments may mislead one to consider this viewpoint, but an empiric analysis of prismatic experiments will reveal the flaws in this way of thinking.
The linear mode of thought arising along with the Newtonian concept of the spectrum has given rise to modern conceptions of the “electromagnetic spectrum.”
This grand spectrum is one in which all energies, be they sound, diverse electrical waves, IR, light, UV, X-rays, gamma, etc., are claimed to line up like well-trained soldiers marching in perfect order, from zero to infinity, in hierarchy of what is alleged to be their true nature—their mere vibratory rate. Any qualities we experience, sound, color, taste, feeling, smells, are merely “secondary” qualities with no real absolute reality to reductionist science.
And most importantly, what's not on the EM linear spectrum?
The essentials of being: life and consciousness.
While there can be no doubt that the electromagnetic spectrum has a specific, engineerable reality, whose conception has provided us the many volition-saving products of technology, such as the equipment upon which you are reading this, we should not jump to the conclusion that it is an all-encompassing reality until we take all experimental considerations and perspectives into account.
While Newton generally followed the analytical, scientific method in his path of discovery, it is lesser known that he was in secret pursuit of alchemical knowledge.
Newton’s seven color concept of the spectrum is derived from his pursuit of the seven stages of alchemy, not from what actually appears from a prism.
The great poet-scientist Goethe took a more universal approach. Rather than simply studying light and color by shutting himself into a dark room and reproducing the experiments of Newton, which of course he did very methodically to assess the results firsthand, he chose to discern the nature of color in its full glory and expression in the manifest world, both subjectively and objectively.
Goethe accepted that Newton’s experiments displayed scientific truths. He performed a far more thorough investigation, not labored with preconceptions, and came to quite differing conclusions.
“Light and darkness, brightness and obscurity, or if a more general expression is preferred, light and its absence, are necessary to the production of color… Color itself is a degree of darkness.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colours
Goethe demonstrated that Newton was in error in his deduction of the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet spectrum as a primary attribute of light alone. This spectrum is a manufactured product of a specific arrangement of slit and prism, a complex effect of the process of color formation combining primary (red-yellow and blue-violet poles) and secondary effects (green, from mixing yellow and blue).
In Newton’s theory of gravity the most important question goes unasked: that of how the falling apple got up in the tree in the first place, what made it grow from seed, metamorphosing through various formative stages into its fruiting stage—all the time growing in the opposite direction to the force of gravity? The archetypal nature of color formation — that gleaned from observing and understanding the essence of light and color in Nature — is lost from this gravity-bound viewpoint.
Let us review that glamorous, classic experiment of Sir Isaac Newton. He is isolated from the natural field of light in his darkened room, with his setup permitting only a small beam of light through a tiny aperture which then goes through a prism onto a white surface. The concept of the ROYGBIV spectrum as the absolute structure of the components of white light comes from this setup.
Let us follow the light as it leaves the prism. We see two bands of colors, red-yellow and violet-blue (labelled blue-cyan respectively in the image above), facing each other as polarities across a white middle. Following along where the opposing color bands come together, green appears where yellow and blue intermingle.
It should be mentioned here, that what is being called the prismatic violet band is considered as a dark blue in standard theory, and the accompanying blue band is considered cyan. From this comes the so-called “primary” triad of red-green-blue.
Forgetting for the moment whatever theories, examination of the observable phenomena shows that color formation consists of border effects between light and dark areas.
The red is over the black portion of the projection and the yellow is in the illuminated, or white portion.
Blue appears on the white and violet on the black.
The results of this experiment can be more readily observed by looking through a prism at diagrams which illustrate the borders in various arrangements.
Now, as Goethe did, let’s reverse the borders across which light is travelling. Rather than running the light through a slit, let it run around an object. Here we see a second spectrum produced, yellow, red, magenta, violet, blue!
We can look through a prism at cards like in the below image, where the borders are vertical and horizontal:
On the upper card, when viewed through a prism, we see on the right that we get a red-yellow and a blue-violet polarity on the opposing patterns of white and black rectangles, only on the lines parallel to the axis of the prism. These are the primary prismatic phenomena.
On the lower card we have a thin horizontal strip, black through the white side of the card, white through the black side. We see here through a prism the two primary polarities combined, giving us on the left, yellow, magenta and blue; and, on the right, violet, green and red. Depending on width and distance of the prism one can see further intermediary colors, as the spectra spread out or tighten.
Get yourself a prism and experiment!
Looking through a prism, fundamentals:
Black, white and uniformly pure surfaces show no color through the prism; rather, colors only appear at edges parallel to the prism axis, places of contrast made by darkness and lightness.
Colors do not appear along all edges; rather, they appear only along edges parallel to the axis of the prism or at least not perpendicular.
The more marked and strong the edge of darkness and light, the brighter and more lively the colors.
The colors at the edges arrange themselves in two different groups: a yellow-red group and a blue-violet group.
Green and magenta only appear when the two groups meet in light or dark respectively.
Spectra of darkness and light?
If all the colors of the Newtonian spectrum are contained in light, as acclaimed, then shouldn’t all the colors of this second, or Goethean spectrum be contained in darkness?
The actions of infrared and ultraviolet rays which are below and above the Newtonian spectrum are well known and studied, but what appears above and below the Goethean spectrum?
Research carried on by Professor August Kirschmann has shown that “a broad zone distinguished by the absence of ultra-violet rays extends into the colorless light adjacent to the yellow. Adjoining the blue there would probably also turn out to be a zone with the absence of infra-red rays. To the theories of present day physics this is a mystery, since according to these theories ultra-violet as well as infra-red rays must be present in the colorless zones, just as in any white light.”
Color is a number?
What of the wavelength theory of light? It no doubt has an engineerable reality attached to it, but how does magenta fit in? It doesn’t, even though green and magenta can be clearly discerned as being formed from the primary RY and BV color poles, as a secondary polarity. Thereby all readily discerned prismatic colors are not allowed into the electromagnetic spectrum, and thus magenta must have no wavelength. It is considered to be a secondary mixture, unlike it’s polar opposite, green.
How is the wavelength deduced? By use of diffraction gratings. A diffraction grating is an optical device used to separate light into colors. It consists of a flat surface that has thousands of parallel, closely spaced, and equally sized slits or lines carved or etched onto it. The spacing between these slits is typically on the order of micrometers. Its construction only allows it to show the Newtonian spectrum.
We can say that colors have a wavelength, not that they are a wavelength.
Thinking along these lines gives rise to grave concerns with the present conception of the linear electromagnetic spectrum as a final determination of science. This is not to say that the experiments giving rise to this conception are incorrect, rather, their interpretation has produced a comprehension of only part of our functioning reality, and with the attitude that this is the fundamental basis of the phenomena.
The glamour of Newton and the reliance on math over archetypal observations rules the day, for now…
Goethe’s Color Circle
Goethe combined the two projectable spectrums together to create a color circle which takes in the full structure of prismatic color formation.
There are many color circles presented by proponents of various theories of light and color, and these cover a wide range from various interpretations from Newton’s spectrum through to industrial pigment grading charts. Goethe’s color circle is based on primary prismatic phenomena. This color circle is expressed around the six pointed star, the ancient designate of the maxim “as above, so below”.
Goethe felt that green was actually the lowest among the “living” colors (white, black and grey being “dead”). As a mixture of what he considered the two true colors, yellow and blue (Sun and sky), it was closest to the grey, created by mixing black and white. He said, “Green reminds us of a molecular mixture”, and he saw green as the dissolving of light via the mixture of yellow and blue.
On the other hand he called magenta “pure red” and considered it the ascent of color towards its highest point, “The path to culmination in pure red appears more dynamic; the appearance of green has more of an atomistic nature.”
Goethe considered green and magenta to be dynamic polar complements.
The “Parsi Edison” Dinshah Pestanji Ghadiali developed an amazing color healing system in the early 20th century. His work will be presented in a subsequent article.
Dinshah gets a cameo mention here, as he said that green and magenta have the same wavelength but rotate in opposing directions in the ether. We’ll delve into this more in an article on his work where I show some experimental indications of this.
In the interim, this water flow analogy with projections of the two spectra provides some food for thought:
The path of light is a sojourn through many exotic and obscure, yet fascinating and enlightening ideas encountered in seeking the archetypal nature of existence.
“The highest goal that man can achieve is amazement.” — Goethe
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